Washington, DC, December 5, 2016 — The American International Health Alliance (AIHA), the International Training and Education Center for Health (I-TECH) at the University of Washington, and other partners recently celebrated the graduation of 16 Zambian laboratory managers who successfully completed an intensive 9-month training in laboratory leadership and management.

In Zambia and many other low-resource countries around the world, insufficient leadership skills and lack of effective management practices among clinical and public health laboratory managers and directors represent major barriers to the effective provision of high-quality laboratory services. These critical health services underpin timely detection, surveillance, and response to infectious diseases.

“As we all know, public health laboratories play a critical role in prevention, diagnosis, treatment, care, and surveillance for HIV/AIDS and other diseases,” said Dr. Clement Ndongmo, Laboratory Branch Chief at the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) in Zambia.

Speaking at the Dec. 2 at a ceremony in Lusaka, Dr. Ndongmo said the program marked an important milestone on Zambia’s path to strengthening laboratory services in an effort to attain sustainable control of the HIV epidemic, as well as other public health challenges. He went on to explain that clinical laboratory services have a direct impact on many aspects of patient care, stressing that quality of care, length of stay at health facilities, patient safety and satisfaction, and resource utilization were all areas that would benefit from the knowledge and skills gained by the lab managers who participated in the training.

The 16 individuals who each earned a Certificate in Laboratory Leadership and Management from the University of Washington were drawn from Ministry of Health public health laboratories earmarked for international accreditation. They enrolled in the course in March 2016 and spent nine months strengthening their skills in quality assurance practices; application of diagnostic technologies; and data analyzation, interpretation, and communication of results and impacts. Developed and conducted by I-TECH, this program features a blend of distance learning and face-to-face training activities, along with targeted mentorship to foster professional growth.

During the ceremony, Ministry of Health Deputy Director of Clinical Care and Diagnostic Services Dr. Mzaza Nthele urged health personnel to use the knowledge and expertise acquired to ensure the Zambian laboratories achieve international recognition and accreditation in 2017.

He told program participants that, as leaders representing various laboratories across the country, they must apply the leadership and management skills they had learned to ensure optimal lab performance, as well as effective coordination with key public health practice stakeholders.

“The successes of this program should encourage all of us to move away from individual developmental programs to laboratory-based programs to ensure that all members of the laboratory team are involved in quality improvement to help laboratories to achieve international recognition,” Dr. Nthele added.

Lugard Sichalwe, a medical scientist who participated in the training program, said the training proved to be a powerful tool for his personal and professional development because the course addressed key issues of laboratory leadership, management of personnel, and targeted skills building.

“This course has provided me both the drive and technical awareness to continuously implement organizational initiatives that contribute to the sustainable delivery of quality healthcare as my department moves towards accreditation. I thank all stakeholders for this impactful program,” he said.

The Certificate Program in Laboratory Leadership and Management (CPLLM) was implemented by the American International Health Alliance (AIHA), the International Training and Educational Center for Health (I-TECH), and the Zambian Ministry of Health with funding and support from the U.S. President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief (PEPFAR) and CDC / Zambia. The goal of the CPLLM is to strengthen the leadership and management skills of clinical and public health laboratory personnel to support improved diagnosis, surveillance, and treatment of HIV/AIDS and other infectious diseases.